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Celtika (The Merlin Codex) Hardcover – March 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: The Merlin Codex (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st Tor hardcover ed edition (March 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765306921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765306920
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,476,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In British author Holdstock's dazzling reframing of Arthurian myth and Greek legend, a wandering, youthful Merlin who ages only when he uses his "charm" encounters Jason and joins him on his quest aboard the Argo for the Golden Fleece. Known to Jason as Antiokus, Merlin is present when the enchantress Medea kills Jason's two sons and absconds with the bodies. The Argo slips her moorings and sails off into the night, a broken ship carrying a broken man to their mutual grave. Centuries later, Merlin hears of a screaming ship in a frozen lake. Divining that the screams come from Jason, still yearning for his lost sons, Merlin struggles north, for he has learned that Jason's sons are alive. Using his jealously guarded magic, Merlin raises the Argo and the still living Jason, who gathers new Argonauts-Urtha, Ullanna and Niiv-to search for his sons. Family and loss are central to this poignant new telling of Merlin's story. And even Merlin, who for so long considered himself a solitary traveler on the pathways of magic, realizes that he's not as alone as he once thought. With this remarkable work, Holdstock, a World Fantasy Award winner for Mythago Wood (1985), more than lives up to his billing as one of the finest living crafters of myth.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Holdstock's latest mythic fantasy launches the autobiography of Merlin. It begins long before the time of the Matter of Britain, when Merlin, already a powerful mage who has sailed with Jason on the Argo, is trying to help Jason find the old ship and his two sons, who may not have been murdered by Medea, after all. The quest takes king and mage to Scandinavia to bring the ship back to life, then to Alba--England, that is. There they become comrades of a warrior on a quest for vengeance, and that plops them in the middle of the historic invasion of Greece by Brennus the Gaul. Merlin has conflicts of interest, in that he and Medea are both members of the same order of mage. Readers may also feel conflicted over whether splendid individual scenes and fine, deep characterizations compensate for a narrative so laden with mythic and folkloric references that it is hard to follow. But Holdstock has justified staying with him before, and he has more of Merlin's adventures in the offing. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Great cast of characters.
S Hicks
Giving it the name 'Ghostland' didn't help.
kaiser100
I am eagerly awaiting the third book.
HistoryShowsUs

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ian Kaplan VINE VOICE on May 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have enjoyed Robert Holdstock's work since his book Mythago Wood
first came out. Like all of Holdstock's work, Celtika weaves
myth and reality together. In Holdstock's book characters from
myth and demigods walk among men and women. Holdstock's earlier
works are full of obcession, love and passion as the world of
humans intersects with the world of myth (or Mythagos). This
gives his earlier work a somewhat dark quality. Although Celtika
opens in the snow and at a haunted lake, this work seems lighter
somehow.
Holdstock is an excellent english stylist and has an encylopedic
knowledge of early history and myth. Celtika is a strange
intersection a time which appears to be between Alexander's
conquests and the rise of the Roman Empire, with mythical greek
history.
Although I suppose Celtika work would be classified as
fantasy, Holdstock does not write classic fantasy. His
stories have a real character to them. The main character,
Merlin, does not wash much, as few people did in the west
before modern times. Celtika recounts a story from earlier
in Merlins very long life where he is seduced by a woman.
She come to him in a sheer dress, smelling of flowers.
As she undresses him she discovers that he is filthy. She
first cleans him before they make love.
Holdstock definitely writes for a well read audience.
The story of Media is interwoven into Celtika and if you
have not read or seen the Greek play Media, it might be
worth reading to understand some of the background in this
story. In particular, why Media is so bitter.
In summary, this is an excellent book...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S Hicks on February 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Just finished Celtika by Robert Holdstock....a excellent read with a new twist on the story of Merlin and Jason (from Golden Fleece fame). If you're a stickler for keeping true to the old myths you may not like it, if however you like seeing tales told from a different perspective go for it. Takes you to a magical world 700 yrs after Jason's famous quest. Great cast of characters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Neil Dewitte VINE VOICE on April 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Familial estrangement, one of Holdstock's favorite themes, takes center stage in Celtika. Celtika is mythic fiction that is epic in scope, including space and time. It revives a 700 year-old struggle between Jason (from Jason & the Argonauts) and Medea, the mother of all trickery. The events in Celtika take place throughout Europe, starting in Scandinavia and moving from there to England, the heart of central Europe and to the Mediterranean coasts of Greece.

Holdstock effectively includes Celtic and Classical (Greek) cultures and myths. Heroic deeds of mythic proportions are intermixed with subtle scenes involving concealed motives, magic and ever-changing personal emotions. This book is like a mystery, unraveling secrets slowly while continuing to reveal new mysteries. The book contains a good bit of action, but fighting and battle are a natural part of telling the story, not the purpose of the story.

At first read, it appears Holdstock may have bitten off more than he can chew by introducing many characters from different cultures and moving them in a variety of directions (physical and mental.) I am optimistic that these threads will be picked up the following books of the trilogy. Unlike some of Holdstock's previous works, he wraps up enough clues at the end of Celtika to offer the reader some catharsis while still keeping the reader curious about what will happen next.

I recommend reading or brushing up on Jason and the Argonauts and Arthurian legends involving the wizard Merlin prior to reading Celtika.

One thing I particularly like about this book is that it is told in first person from the narrative viewpoint of Merlin who, like the reader, should know his Greek mythology.

Overall this book falls solidly between average and excellent - I give it four stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Scott Schiefelbein VINE VOICE on December 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Robert Holdstock's "Celtika" may be the most ambitious "short" fantasy novel I've ever read. The fantasy genre, perhaps inspired by Tolkien's epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, seems to be chock full of massive tomes (such as George R. R. Martin's magnificent "Song of Ice and Fire" saga). Relatively brief at around 350 pages, "Celtika" nevertheless packs enough ideas, possibilities, themes, subplots, and mysteries to justify a larger effort. While many of these elements will likely be explored further in the later novels of this planned series, "Celtika" nevertheless leaves the reader a bit discombobulated at times.

"Celtika," not surprising for the first book in the "Merlin Codex," spins a yarn about Merlin the magician of King Arthur fame. But Holdstock takes a very unusual turn in this novel, setting "Celtika" a couple of generations before King Arthur is born. Indeed, Merlin's strongest relationship with a mere mortal is his bond with Jason, the Greek hero of the Argo and the Golden Fleece. Surprisingly, Jason's relationship with Medea and his sons forms the backbone of "Celtika."

Jason dies a broken, blind, old man in the opening passages of this novel. Merlin, whose non-human heritage allows him to ignore the passage of time other than through the exercise of his magical powers, revives Jason 700 years later from his resting place at the bottom of a lake in Northern Europe. Merlin shocks Jason first by telling him that 700 years have passed, but also that Jason's beloved sons are alive -- his witch-wife Medea hid them from Jason rather than murdering them as everyone who has studied Greek drama has believed. Soon, Jason has assembled a new cast of Argonauts to track down his sons.
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